As soon as the Olympics are over, for Ricarda Funk it’s time to get ready for the next championships. Between her sessions in training camps in Bratislava and France, we were allowed an exclusive interview with the Tokyo gold medallist in canoe slalom. We talked about her success, her journey there and her future goals and wishes.
First of all, congratulations on the gold medal! Is this victory comparable to anything you’ve won before in your sports career?
Ricarda Funk: "No, absolutely not. I’ve been working towards this success and this experience for a long time. In the end, the victory and the gold medal were the icing on the cake of this path I’m on. Starting with the qualification to participate to my personal success, I cannot compare this experience with any other. For me personally, the moment on the starting line was a dream, and then winning in the end and beating the strong competition was simply amazing."
Was participating in the Olympic Games always a sporting milestone you wanted to achieve?
Ricarda Funk: "Definitely! Especially after I didn't manage to qualify for the 2016 Olympics as I had hoped, the incentive for Tokyo was even greater over the past four years. I trained meticulously for it and gladly put everything else on the back burner for the sport and my dream. And let me say this much: it’s worth dreaming and working for it, because dreams can come true."
What was it like to stand on the podium at the awards ceremony?
Ricarda Funk: "You don't realize it at first. But the moment on the podium was awesome. I enjoyed every second and soaked up every single emotion. It was a pity there was no audience and no fans, but still it was and will always be an unforgettable moment for me."
How much pressure was on your shoulders during this phase?
Ricarda Funk: "Of course you know and see your competition and you know how to judge them. After all, the best athletes in their discipline worldwide compete at the Olympic Games and I was very aware that I needed a good run. And the pressure was also high because I was the one nominated by the German Canoe Federation to represent the German team in the canoe slalom – of course you want to live up to all the expectations."
How do you deal with pressure to perform in such situations? Can rituals and routines help?
Ricarda Funk: "We are intensively coached by sports psychologists and they go with us to the qualifications and championships. They tell us how we can best deal with such situations and offer us alternative solutions to combat the pressure. For me, progressive muscle relaxation usually helps. I have freed myself from lucky charms and rituals. Of course, there were always lucky charms like a lucky hair elastic or a special bikini, but those weren’t always reliable and had to be done away with. I learned to trust in my own abilities and to believe in myself and my dreams."
Did you have any special encounters despite the contact restrictions in the Olympic Village?
Ricarda Funk: "The atmosphere there was overwhelming – just being here with all the athletes in one place and sensing the spirit was a great feeling. But unfortunately, due to the contact restrictions there wasn’t much personal contact, but the environment was still really amazing."
What fascinates you personally about canoe slalom?
Ricarda Funk: "Canoe slalom is an action sport that pushes you. Before I started canoeing, I liked to dance, but quickly realized I was missing the rhythm. Then when I was paddling I noticed how much fun it is to ride over waves and dance with them in a way - here the rhythm simply fits. In the white water channel you always face new challenges, because this sport is highly complex and demands not only strength and endurance, but also skill and courage. Even today, there are situations where I have to push myself to start paddling. That's the attraction of this sport."
What do you recommend to hobby paddlers and beginners?
Ricarda Funk: "In general, I would always recommend joining a club. Here you learn the basics for safe paddling. In addition, beginners should start in standing water and choose boats that are well balanced. Plastic boats are great for practising the first paddle strokes."
You can't get any higher than Olympic gold, so what are your goals for your future in the sport?
Ricarda Funk: "First and foremost, of course, is the qualification for the events, which always require a lot of diligence and work. At the top of my list are the World Championships in Augsburg next year. I'm really looking forward to that. It will be a great experience to compete in front of a home crowd. And then I'm hoping for the next Olympic Games with audience participation, people & fans. I’d like to be able to enjoy the spirit once again, this time with all that goes with it."
Thank you Ricarda for this great and informative interview!
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